Family dysfunction in The Glass Castle and contrasting aboriginal lives in Wind River and Rumble
Pura Fé, a Tuscarora singer and songwriter from the U.S., now living in Saskatchewan, listens to a Charlie Patton record in the film and declares “It’s Indian music to me.” A long list of big names, from Martin Scorsese to Steve Van Zandt and Buffy St. Marie comment in this eye-opening documentary which illustrates its points with plenty of sight and sound clips. The film is from Montreal’s Rezolution Pictures International which specializes in aboriginal subjects. It won the audience award and was named best Canadian documentary at Toronto’s Hot Docs festival. (VanCity Theatre, where the first show Friday will be preceded by a performance by Ronnie Dean Harris aka Ostwelve). 4 out of 5
MENASHE: This is the fourth movie in the last four years to take us inside the tightly insular Hasidic Jewish community. Two came from Israel, one from Montreal and this one is set in Brooklyn. The central theme is common to them all: how the strict rules in the group impact on individuals.
Menashe wants to raise his son himself but since he’s a widower he can’t. The Talmud says children must be raised by a man and a woman. The boy must go to live in an uncle’s house. Menashe, who has him for just one more week, strives to show the rabbi he’s a worthy father. That’s hard for him; he’s not much for tradition like wearing a hat and black coat. And he’s a hapless sort with a low-level job and bouts of bad luck, as when he burns the kugel he’s trying to make for a memorial service. Sounds like a comedy but it’s not. It’s a heartfelt, gentle drama about rules that impose. The lead actor, Menashe Lustig, is a victim of those rules himself. He’s known mostly for some you-tube videos and commercials, and gains our sympathy with his untrained, sincere acting. The film includes some events filmed in secret like the singing, dancing and clapping around a giant bonfire by all the men in the community. (5th Avenue) 3 ½ out of 5
LANDLINE: Back in 1995, where this film is set, people didn’t have cellphones. They were more likely to talk face to face. And in this movie they do, frequently, all the time actually. The movie wouldn’t feel so talky if its characters had more clever things to say. Or if it was funnier. As it is, it’s only adequate, not eloquent, and not memorable. It gives us yet again a New York family distressed by internal fissures. Edie Falco plays a nag of a Jewish wife; and John Turturro, her straying Italian husband. One of their two daughters (Jenny Slate) catches wind of his cheating and investigates, while straying herself from her dull fiancé (Jay Duplass). Her sister (Abby Quinn) meanwhile is a surly teenager strongly into sex and a bit of heroin now and then. It all feels manufactured.
The two sisters’ relationship is the one element that feels real. They fling advice, encouragement, criticism and insults around with the respect that shows there’s a real bond between them. Much else is artificial, though the era is well remembered in both the art direction and the music on the sound track. The story is breezy and exists as a series of incidents without a compelling narrative drive to fuse them together. Jenny Slate, director Gillian Robespierre and scriptwriter Elisabeth Holm got better results three summer ago in their first film together, Obvious Child. (International Village) 2 ½ out of 5
ANNABELLE: CREATION: And now the haunted doll’s back story. She had a small part in one of the Conjuring movies, got her own film three years ago and because it made over a quarter of a billion dollars was afforded this return engagement. We get her history; how she came to be such a malevolent character. It doesn’t make much logical sense—something about the daughter of a toymaker (Anthony LaPaglia) and his wife (Miranda Otto) run over by a speeding truck—but it offers more chills and jump scares, creaky doors opening by themselves, forbidden rooms entered and dark spectres hovering in the shadows. And that doll popping up here and there to startle.
It’s 12 years after the accident. Otto is bed ridden with grief, LaPaglia is gruff to protect her privacy but in a contradictory move invites a priest to bring a nun and six orphan girls to live in his farmhouse. How long do you suppose it’ll be before they get into rooms and spaces they should not be in? One of them, Janice (played by Talitha Bateman) is a polio victim. So naturally she’s the one who finds the doll and is most affected by the spooky results. The film isn’t very scary but the slow build to the creepy scenes will give you tingles. Unless some jerk nearby laughs at every clunk and shiver just because he’s seen them all before. (Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5
Also now playing …
THE NUT JOB 2: NUTTY BY NATURE: I hated the first film, haven’t seen this one, but am told it’s a little better than its predecessor. “Not terrible,” was the comment. The animals who saved a favorite tree back then, now have to face a mayor who wants to take down an entire park and put up a midway. The voices of Will Arnett and Katherine Heigl are back and joined this time by Maya Rudolph and Jackie Chan but, I’m told, little in the way of humour.